When Consumption Embraces Faith: How Religious Beliefs and Practices Influence Consumption

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Fitzsimons, Gavan
Staelin, Richard

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Marketers have long looked for observables that could explain differences in consumer behavior. Initial attempts have centered on demographic factors, such as age, gender, and race. Although such variables are able to provide some useful information for segmentation (Bass, Tigert, and Longdale 1968), more recent studies have shown that variables that tap into consumers’ social classes and personal values have more predictive accuracy and also provide deeper insights into consumer behavior. I argue that one demographic construct, religion, merits further consideration as a factor that has a profound impact on consumer behavior. In this dissertation, I focus on two types of religious guidance that may influence consumer behaviors: religious teachings (being content with one’s belongings), and religious problem-solving styles (reliance on God).

Essay 1 focuses on the well-established endowment effect and introduces a new moderator (religious teachings on contentment) that influences both owner and buyers’ pricing behaviors. Through fifteen experiments, I demonstrate that when people are primed with religion or characterized by stronger religious beliefs, they tend to value their belongings more than people who are not primed with religion or who have weaker religious beliefs. These effects are caused by religious teachings on being content with one’s belongings, which lead to the overvaluation of one’s own possessions.

Essay 2 focuses on self-control behaviors, specifically healthy eating, and introduces a new moderator (God’s role in the decision-making process) that determines the relationship between religiosity and the healthiness of food choices. My findings demonstrate that consumers who indicate that they defer to God in their decision-making make unhealthier food choices as their religiosity increases. The opposite is true for consumers who rely entirely on themselves. Importantly, this relationship is mediated by the consumer’s consideration of future consequences. This essay provides an explanation to the existing mixed findings on the relationship between religiosity and obesity.





Qin, Vivian (2016). When Consumption Embraces Faith: How Religious Beliefs and Practices Influence Consumption. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/12857.


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